Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pump Reapir Project

One of my projects here was with a women's gardening group. They had a very nice garden that must have been built with the help of some grant years ago.  It was surrounded by a very good fence, and there were little cement cannels to carry the water to all the plots, but the pump had not worked for several years.  This picture shows the arrangement and maybe you can see the fence in the background.  The fence is very important.  If you don't have one, animals roaming free will eat your plants as soon as they sprout.

USAID has funds to be used to help communities with water and sanitation projects.  These funds are only available to communities through a Peace Corps volunteer. Peace Corps puts the money in the volunteer's account and the volunteer is responsible for seeing that the funds are used for the project and not "boofed," that is, used for other things. There are several requirements for this kind of project.  One thing is that the community must make contributions of cash and/or labor and materials that have a value of at least 25% of the total cost of the project. The reason for this is that, if there is not community investment, people tend to see the project as the responsibility of the group giving the money and tend not to accept responsibility for upkeep and repair. A second requirement is that there must be some training involved, so that people learn something.  The third thing is that there must be a plan in place to sustain the project after the repair is done. I helped the group write a grant request which was approved. It did take a while to collect the community's share of cash to pay for the pump parts.  Finally the pump repairman was able to do the work, with a bit of help from the children of the community. This chain is the thing the pump handle pulls up and down.  It attached to the mechanism that lifts the water.

Here it is, after being installed in the pump.
Finally, the women were able to pump clean water for drinking and gardening.
After there was water, the women started to grow things in the garden
Here is an example of one of the plots in which a woman is raising beans. It is a little easier to see the fence here.
There are the leaves of the bean plant that people use for sauces..

One of the men from the community, actually the village chief you saw in the pictures of Women's Day, volunteered his services to do training as a part of the community contribution.  After some scheduling problems, we finally had a training session for the women of the gardening group. To give you an idea about the cultural difference that I have trouble dealing with, I will tell you a bit about scheduling this meeting and how it finally went.

First of all, the man who was to do the training does not speak French very well, and had trouble understanding my French.  I asked my friend, Nadine, who is an English teacher at the LycĂ©e and who also speaks Moore, to act as an interpreter for me when dealing with him. Every time she talked to him he said he would call her back with a date, but, over a period of two months, that did not happen.  Many times he did not answer his cell phone, or his wife answered and said he was not at home. We have a time limit in which to file a report about our projects and mine was fast approaching.  The directorice of Peace Corps visited my site a couple of weeks before Easter.  One of the people I introduced her to was this gentleman.  She helped me by saying again how important it was to get this training finished before May 1 and he promised to do it after Easter, at least by the 15th of April. Unfortunately, the Chief of the whole region died just after Easter and there were obligations for the sub-chiefs, like this man, related to this death. I was beginning to think I would have to find a substitute for him. I asked Nadine to see if the women would suggest a couple of days when we could arrange this. The last Tuesday in April Nadine told me that the woman in charge of the gardening group said they thought there might be a meeting on Thursday, but not to tell me because it might not happen.  Thank goodness she gave me that warning!

I heard nothing until Thursday morning at 7:00 when she called to tell me they had just informed her that the meeting would be that day at 9:00. They also suggested that I come at 9:30 because that was the "African" meeting time, that is to say, it would not really start until somewhat later than announced. I hoped to talk with her a bit before the meeting so I arrived at 9:00, and, of course, no one was at the meeting site.  I went to her home and chatted with her husband while she took a bucket bath and got dressed. Finally, about 9:40 we left her house and started to collect the women from the dolo (homemade African beer) stands. Some of us went to the garden and sat near the "office" building of the group that is in the fenced in area of the garden. 
There was some discussion of the fact that the shade in this place was not very good, but women continued to collect here, some carrying benches for the folks to sit on. At 10:00 the woman in charge asked me if it was time to start.  I told her I was not the one doing the training and we needed the man who would explain about care of the pump, who was not there yet. She said she did not have his phone number, so she used my phone to call him and let him know we were waiting for him.  About 10:15 he rolled in on his moto.  After one look at where the women were gathered, he said we needed to move to better shade, so the women picked up the benches and carried them down to the other end of the garden.
Finally we were all seated and the meeting began.  This picture shows only some of the women, and the man who did the training.
The plan in the grant application said that the community would open an account at the local savings association and to put into it money from the gardening project and from people getting water from the pump.  That way, they will have money to repair the pump the next time it needs attention. Pumps are mechanical things and are sure to break down at some point. Sustainability is what we try to promote in our work. If they follow through on this plan, this project will be sustainable with these community contributions. As part of this meeting the group selected, by acclimation, four of the younger women to be a management committee They will be responsible for seeing that the pump is used as they had been trained to do in this session, and to collect money from those who use the pump to have a fund to make repairs in the future. Here is one concrete thing I was able to help people do during my time here.


  1. This is a great project! I hope that the village will keep this going. Clean water and fresh vegetables - what a great combination.

  2. This is a good project by USAID and it will the people of that area. They should start more projects like this in rural areas.

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